Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: You say “no” to sin so that you can say “yes” to a close relationship with God. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Is there anything or anyone that is intruding in your intimacy with God? You say, “I don’t have time to cultivate intimacy with God.” Why don’t you have time? What’s in the way? What are you spending your time doing? What’s stealing your heart? What’s stealing your affections? Do you love or enjoy or entertain yourself with anything that is opposed to Him, anything that He hates, anything that is not conducive to cultivating intimacy with Him?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender: The Heart God Controls, for Thursday, September 7, 2017.

The book of Revelation tells us about a church that was tolerating immoral behavior. The solution to that problem is church discipline as Nancy’s been exploring over the last several days in the series "Compromising Truth."

This church in Revelation was also tolerating false doctrine, a danger you and I face all the time. Here's an example.

Oprah Winfrey: I took God out of the box because I grew up in the Baptist church and there were rules and belief systems and doctrine. I happened to be sitting in church in my late twenties. I was going to this church where this great minister was preaching about how great God was and how omniscient and omnipresent and God is everything.

Then he said, “The Lord thy God is a jealous God.” I was caught up in the rapture of that moment until he said jealous. Something struck me. I was thinking, God is all. God is omnipresent. God is all and God’s also jealous? God is jealous of me?

Something about that didn’t feel right in my spirit because I believe that God is love and that God is in all things, and so that’s when the search for something more than doctrine started to stir within me.

I love this quote that Eckhart has where he says, “Man made God in his own image, the eternal, the infinite, and unnamable was reduced to a mental idol that you had to believe in and worship as ‘my God’ or ‘our God.’”

Nancy: Well, you may recognize that as the voice of Oprah Winfrey, and you may recall this clip from a course that she hosted some time ago with new-age teacher and author Eckhart Tolle.

Nothing is more important than our view of God. If you get that wrong, you’re going to get everything else wrong. Sadly, Oprah’s mistaken view of God has had a huge impact on her other beliefs and practices and as a result, enormous influence on millions of her followers.

Now, we’re in the letter to the church in Pergamum, the third of the seven churches in the book of Revelation. It refers to the Old Testament story of Balaam and raises a question that I want us to address today, and this clip from Oprah will tie it all together for us.

Let me read, though, a part of the passage in Revelation 2:

The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword . . . "I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (vv. 12–16).

Now, this is a passage that could cause some people to stumble, even as Oprah found herself in her late twenties confused and stumbling over hearing an Old Testament reference to God being a jealous God.

Nothing is more important than our view of God. If you get that wrong, you’re going to get everything else wrong.

When you hear Jesus saying, “If you don’t deal with this false teaching, I’m going to come and wage war against you with a sword,” you could think: What’s the big deal? Why would God come and make war against these people with the sword of His mouth? That doesn’t sound like something a loving God would do.

Why is it so important to be zealous in maintaining right doctrine and right behavior among God’s people? Because that really flies in the face of our whole post-modern way of thinking about, “There are no absolutes. There is no right and wrong. We’re supposed to be tolerant. You can believe what you want to believe, but you need to be respectful of those who believe differently, and it sounds like God doesn’t agree with that philosophy.”

Why should we refuse to tolerate anything unholy in the church? Well, the answer, at least in part, is because God is a jealous God.

Oprah did hear the preacher correctly, and it was not the preacher’s words. He was quoting the Word of God. Remember, the first time this phrase appears was in the book of Exodus, chapter 20, as God is giving the law. He says, “I am a jealous God” (v. 5). He says that about Himself.

Now, I want to get us back, eventually, to Revelation 2 and the letter to Pergamum. But first I want to take a bit of a parenthesis in this session in relation to this whole issue of the jealousy of God. Because if we don’t understand the fact that God is a jealous God and what that means and what its implications are, then we’re going to fall into the same kinds of sins that the church in Pergamum did, that the spirit of our age does; and that is to live and let live. You wouldn’t practice church discipline as we talked about in the last session against unrepentant sinners if you don’t believe that God is a jealous God.

What does that word mean? In the Scripture as it’s used, jealous is also sometimes translated “zeal.” Jealousy and zeal are two very similar things, and the root for this word means "to become very red," "to burn with zeal," "to be zealous."

One Bible dictionary says that jealousy is one of the strongest emotions in the Scripture, and it speaks of passionate desire, zeal, intense desire.

Now, it can be negative jealousy or positive jealousy. The negative aspect of jealousy would be when there’s a desire for something that rightly belongs to someone else. We would often call that envy. That is a sinful type of jealousy—the desire for something that rightly belongs to another.

But there is a positive type of jealousy, and again, a very strong emotion, a passionate desire, and that is the feeling of a person for something that belongs to him; it’s rightly his own. It’s the response of an intense love that says, “We belong to each other, and I’m jealous for you because you rightly belong to me, and we belong to each other.”

When that term jealousy is used of God, it speaks of the fierce intensity of His love for His people, and His commitment to His people, and His desire to preserve and protect that relationship from all intruders. God says, “I am jealous for you because I love you, because you belong to Me. Because we have a covenant, because we’re in a covenant relationship, I’m jealous to preserve and protect our relationship from anything that could threaten it, from any outsiders that could come in and tear us apart.”

God is jealous, and when we say that, we mean that He has an ardent, fervent zeal for His people. His love for His people is so intense, so fervent that He’s not going to permit any rivals, that He is determined to be the sole object of human worship.

Now, for any human being to say that they were going to be the sole object of human worship, that would be arrogant, that would be unthinkable. But for God to say that, because He is God, and because He is sovereign and supreme and the Creator and the Lord of the universe because He owns the whole world, it’s not arrogant for Him to say, “I want to have what is My rightful due, what belongs to me, and that is you.”

God is jealous for our worship. He has a zeal for His holiness and for His glory, and for us to have holy zeal is for us to desire to advance God’s glory and His cause and His kingdom over any other rivals. That is a righteous zeal for us to have.

Now, let me take us back to Exodus chapter 20. This is in the context of the Ten Commandments. Right in the middle of the Ten Commandments, God says,

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them [why?], for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments (vv. 4–6).

How is God’s jealousy expressed? We saw it there in Exodus 20 in the Ten Commandments. It’s expressed in two ways: First, He shows love and blessing to those who are faithful and loyal to Him, those who keep His covenant. But He also shows His jealousy through punishing those who are unfaithful to Him.

This is where we see the anger of God, something that people in the twenty-first century don’t have much tolerance for or much appreciation of. But the anger of God is the righteous expression of His jealousy, and it’s for the ultimate benefit of those He loves.

Why would it be to our benefit for God to be jealous and to show His jealousy in a righteous anger? It’s because He wants us to be restored to a right relationship with Him so we can experience His blessing.

God knows when we’re in right relationship with Him, when we’re being faithful to that covenant, we’re going to experience His love, His blessing, His goodness, His faithfulness; we’re going to reap the benefits of that fellowship.

But when we stray from that covenant love, when we commit adultery with the world, when we flirt with the world, when we get in bed with the world, so to speak, when we break our covenant with Him, He knows we’re going to experience consequences. So His jealousy causes Him, if necessary, to express righteous anger in order to bring us back to a place of loyalty and faithfulness to Him.

He’s a pursuing God, a God who says, “I am not going to let you go.” He should have let us go a whole long time ago. Am I right? He should not have put up with us. But He says, “I love you. I want you. I’ve chosen you. I want to be in relationship with you.” It’s the language of love.

It’s a serious thing to have our hearts drawn away from God. That’s why sexual immorality is so serious, by the way. Not just because God says, “You shall not commit adultery.” He does say that, and it’s wrong just because God says it. But what makes sexual immorality particularly insidious is that it is an earthly picture of a spiritual reality which is adultery in our relationship with God. It pictures a breech in our relationship with God, a breaking of the covenant.

We can’t love God and at the same time love the world that is opposed to Him.

God wants your heart reserved for Himself, and that means we cannot mix the worship of God with worship of anything or anyone else, or we will provoke the jealous anger of God. It means we can’t love Him and at the same time love the world that is opposed to Him. It means we can’t serve Him and serve idols. It means we can’t feast on Christ, the Bread of Life, and at the same time feast at the table of those who hate Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul speaks to this matter at the church of Corinth. These believers were coming out of pagan backgrounds, and they were living in a culture that was just filled with pagan influence, that was all around them, much as is the case today. Those believers would go to church, and they would participate in the Lord’s Supper, communion with the Lord, the fellowship meal with the Lord. But at the same time their family members, their friends, their co-workers were still participating in pagan feasts to idols. It was just part of the fabric of the culture.

Those friends, those family members, those co-workers were saying, “Why aren’t you doing this with us? What’s wrong with you? You think you’re holier than us or something?” They were tempting these believers. “Go ahead, do the Lord’s Supper if you want when you go to your church service, but on Monday through Saturday, you can do these things with us.”

Even some church members, and here’s the problem, were saying, “Go ahead and do it.” Some leaders and teachers in the church were saying, “There’s nothing wrong with it. You have to give a little. You have to be involved in the world. You can’t just be totally separate from the world.”

In that context Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10, and he says, “My beloved, flee from idolatry” (v. 14). What is idolatry? It’s a breech of the covenant relationship.

Then he says in verse 19,

What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons” (vv. 19–21).

He’s saying, “The spirit behind these pagan feasts and this idol worship, it’s not that that god is anything, it’s not. It’s a piece of wood or a piece of metal. But it’s that the spirit behind it is the spirit of Satan, and you cannot be in bed with Satan and still have a covenant with God. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord at the Lord’s table and then partake of the cup of demons at the same time. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”

Then he says, 1 Corinthians 10, verse 22, “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” There it is again. This theme of the jealousy, the righteous jealousy of God, a God who is a fervent, ardent lover of His people—it’s a love language.

That’s what Oprah didn’t get when she heard this in her twenties. She didn’t understand that. I wish she did. I wish so many others did today, to say that, “God, when He demands that we love Him and have no other gods beside Him, when He says, ‘Stay away from idolatry; stay away from immorality,’ this is a lover saying, ‘I want to be in a holy relationship with you.’”

He’s a passionate God, a pursuing God.

We want to be pursued. We want to be loved, but we go to the filth holes of the world to find what God wants us to find in a deeply, purely, satisfying way in Christ, which leads me to ask:

Are there ways that we have provoked the Lord to jealousy?

  • Are you embracing or following after anything that could be a rival or a threat to your relationship with God?

It could be overt things—things that are clearly sinful—or it can be just practices that could be innocent enough, but they’re stealing our heart from the Lord.

As I’ve been studying this passage, God has brought to my mind things in my life that maybe for you to do them would not be sin, and maybe at another time for me to do them would not be sin. But at this season of my life, it could steal my affection for Christ, and the call here is don’t provoke the Lord to jealousy. Don’t have another lover. Don’t have another god that you follow after.

  • Is there anything or anyone that is intruding in your intimacy with God?

You say, “I don’t have time to cultivate intimacy with God.”

Why don’t you have time? What’s in the way? What are you spending your time doing? What’s stealing your heart? What’s stealing your affections? Do you love or enjoy or entertain yourself with anything that is opposed to Him, anything that He hates, anything that is not conducive to cultivating intimacy with Him?

Are there any steps that you need to take to restore, to preserve, to protect the exclusiveness of your relationship with God, to protect the purity of your heart toward Him?

So we can provoke the Lord to jealousy.

Now, when it comes to human jealousy, the Scripture generally speaks of our jealousy as being negative or tainted with sin. In the New Testament, particularly where it talks about humans being jealous, it’s usually an expression of the flesh, and it’s usually associated with outbursts of anger.

However, it is possible to have a godly jealousy for the glory of God and for the purity of others around us. This divine, godly jealousy will go to whatever lengths are necessary and will take drastic action, if it’s needed, in order to preserve and protect what rightly belongs to God.

So not only are we not to provoke God to jealousy, we are to have a godly jealousy, jealous for His glory and jealous for those around us and ourselves to bring glory to God.

Let me go back to the story of Balaam to give you an illustration of this. And again, it’s an Old Testament illustration, so it doesn’t apply totally across the board. Remember, I told in the last session the story about how after God sent the plague on the Israelites for committing immorality with the Moabite women and for committing idolatry, remember the man who brought one of those Moabite women into his house, into his tent, right in front of all the children of Israel? It was just a flagrant violation of this, and we read how Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron the priest, saw this and said, “Something has to be done.” We talked about how he got up and took his spear in his hand, and he went and found that man and that woman, and he killed them with his spear; and the plague stopped at the moment that he took this action against those who had committed idolatry and adultery.

Now, let me continue on in that passage and see what God thought about that action.

This is Numbers 25, verse 10:

And the Lord said to Moses, "Phinehas the son of Eleazer, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the people of Israel in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy" (vv. 10–11).

I think there’s an insight here: Not only should we not provoke God to jealousy by idolatry and accommodation to the world, falling in love with the world, but if we are jealous for the glory of God and are willing within the church to lovingly, graciously confront those who are accommodating to the world; if we are jealous for their hearts, for their souls, for them to have a right relationship with God; if we have godly jealousy for them, and we’re willing to take steps for them to be restored; we may prevent and protect them from experiencing the ultimate jealousy of God and His anger on their behalf.

God says, “I didn’t have to consume the rest of these people in My jealousy because there was one man, Phinehas, who was willing to take some drastic steps to deal with this situation.”

Now, please hear me. I am not saying that if there is somebody in your fellowship who has doctrinal error or who is living an unrepentant life that you should take a spear and go to their house and kill him.

The New Testament does not teach that, and the reasons for that happening in the Old Testament are a whole other session. There are valid reasons for that, but that is not how God tells us to do it today. He does say, however, “If you see somebody who is caught in sin, go to them, talk to them about it, appeal to them, plead with them, share the Scripture with them. Don’t just stand by and let it happen. Be jealous for the glory of God.”

God goes on to say about Phinehas:

Therefore say, "Behold I give to him My covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel” (vv. 12–13).

It brings to mind what the apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians chapter 11:

I feel a divine jealousy for you since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a pure virgin to Christ (v. 2).

Godly jealousy—Paul was jealous over those Corinthian believers, and it’s like God’s jealousy, which is a fierce desire for what is best to those who belong to Him.

So the question is not only: Are you in some way provoking God to jealousy? I pray not, and if you are, I pray that you will repent and restore that relationship.

But here’s another question: Are you jealous for the glory of God? Are you jealous for those around you to have a pure, love relationship with Christ, to be loyal and faithful to Him?

Are you willing to take whatever steps are necessary and biblical to go to those who are sinning, those who have accommodated to the world, those who are flirting with the world, and to appeal to them in the spirit of Christ and with the love and the passion of Christ to repent, to be restored to a holy, loyal, faithful relationship to the jealous God who is the lover of their souls?

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been describing a positive kind of jealousy. It’s part of the series "Letters to the Churches of Revelation, Part 4: Compromising Truth."

This series has included discussions of everything from church discipline to the belief system of Oprah Winfrey. Sometimes it feels like Revive Our Hearts is swimming against the stream of popular opinion. It’s not always easy to make challenging statements on the radio, but we’re committed to presenting the truth of God’s Word, explaining how it relates to us today.

If you’ve benefitted from this approach and want Nancy’s teaching to continue in your area, we need to hear from you. We’re able to come to you each day from the listeners who have sacrificially given. Would you partner with us as we continue bringing God’s truth to your community?

When you donate any amount, we’ll send you a booklet that goes along with this series. It will enhance your personal devotional time. If you read through these biblical letters on your own, then use this booklet to follow up and make it personal, you’ll appreciate this portion of Revelation in a deeper way. Ask for the booklet Ears to Hear when you call with your gift to 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

The series Compromising Truth wraps up tomorrow after many heavy discussions this week. Hear about the hope ahead for those who hold fast to the truth. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you hold fast to truth. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. 

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